To a Better Place

Troy Onyango

Slightly over a year ago, we ushered the birth of Lolwe’s first issue and now we are here for the third issue. Back then, the world was going through the first wave of a pandemic that brought us so much fear and made our lives unbearable. The pandemic continues to rage on, claiming lives and disrupting all our lived experiences. We have been in and out and back in again and again until the lockdowns have started to feel like one extended lockdown, no longer able to remember when the first ended and when the second started. There is hope, still, as the vaccine rollout continues and each day more people become prepared to embrace “the new normal”.

In all this, art continues to be our great form of escape – from music to films to books – as these stories offer us refuge from the harshness of our realities. We turn to the different artforms, coupled with our imagination, and we disappear to a better place. Between the pages of a book, we are no longer just living through a pandemic but we are living such colourful lives that the writer has crafted for their characters and we find ourselves relating to and connecting with that shared humanity. As James Baldwin said: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” And so we continue to live, to thrive, working through our daily joys and agonies, living through the pain and the happiness, loving, hurting, singing, praying, crying, doing all the things that make us human. Our existences are shaped by these realities and these imaginations.

We dream, we hope, we live.

And while that happens, we continue to craft work that offers us refuge. We continue to open up our imaginations and to find space for ourselves in the different languages.

We create.

And for that gift, we should all be grateful.

It is no easy task reading through the hundreds of submissions Lolwe receives, selecting and editing them in preparation for publication and that is why I am so grateful to the guest editors Akhim Alexis and Elfreda Tetteh for the amazing work they have done in this issue. They worked tirelessly to make sure that everything was in order and I am so pleased with the result.

To Mòje Ikpeme who provided the illustrations for the stories, poems and essays, and Teddy Tavan who took the cover image and allowed us to use it, thank you so much. I appreciate the artistry and thought that went into the process for these images and illustrations.

We are also proud of Rémy Ngamije, whose short story ‘The Giver of Nicknames’ is shortlisted for the 2021 AKO Caine Prize. This is Lolwe’s first appearance on the shortlist and it is a milestone that needs celebrating. This recognition affirms what I have and will always believe in: African literary production is on the rise, and with better resources our literary platforms will continue to produce work of great quality.

Lolwe continues to stay committed to the goal of paying our writers and I am so grateful to everyone who has supported and continues to support us financially either through our Patreon or donations. This meaningful contribution continues to help us stay afloat since Lolwe does not have any funding or institutional backing. We hope that someday we might be able to get funding and be able to better run Lolwe and our other projects such as the Lolwe Classes.

Our readers are the reason we have been able to sustain what we do. The feedback and critical engagement that stories, poems and essays published on Lolwe receive is crucial to us and continues to make the work worthwhile. We hope for more. You, dear reader, are the reason why we keep doing what we do.

Welcome, to our third issue.